NASA, unlike a few others, does not foresee a Martian colony on the Red Planet anytime in the near future. However there other others, notably SpaceX and Tesla leader Elon Musk who do see it happening at least before his life has come to a close but it will his doing and not that of NASA’s.
NASA isn’t even thinking about a permanent colony on Mars
One of NASA’s biggest goals for the future is certainly to land astronauts on Mars but the space agency would like to do that to both show that it can and in order to build a research-and-operations base. NASA has this pesky habit of trying to brings its astronauts back and with the exception of two failed space shuttle missions that killed all on board, they have a pretty good record of doing just that. That is certainly not meant as an insult to the friends and family that have not safely returned to Earth, it’s just the case when you consider the Apollo program and to a lesser extent the Space Shuttle program and the amount of missions it flew.
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Ben Bussey, the chief exploration scientist in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, recently made it clear that the operations base was as far forward as NASA was presently looking.
Asked about a colony recently, he was quite clear with reporters,”a long way down the road. No one’s thinking of, on the NASA side, like a permanent human base.” Well, that was last week at least when we was speaking with the agency’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group.
Sure, NASA did release a number of posters and graphics not to far back that made it look like the agency was getting into the space tourism business, but those were mostly done quite tongue-in-cheek.
“The idea here is that you would have your exploration zone that you set up for the first crew,” Bussey added. “And that crew would leave, and then you send another crew at the next good launch opportunity. So it isn’t permanently occupied, but it is visited multiple times.”
Not unlike “The Martian” by the sounds of it.
While not NASA’s goal, it certainly is Elon Musk and others’ goal
Elon Musk has made it clear that he sees a future where a Mars colony is a reality and in his mind that will require reusable rockets which he’s enjoyed some success with in the past.
At least when simply trying to land, well on land, and not a drone ship in rolling seas though even that has come close.
Musk’s ultimate goal is a colony of tens of thousands.